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Air Force Tests F-22 Helmet-Mounted Cueing System

by Mike Hoffman on May 23, 2014

Thales Helmet-Mounted Cueing SystemF-22 pilots might end up receiving a helmet-mounted cueing system after all.

The U.S. Air Force is testing the Thales Visionix Scoropion helmet-mounted cueing system for the F-22 Raptor at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, according to a report by the U.S. Naval Institute’s Dave Majumdar.

Air Force officials had intended to offer the Vision Systems International Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System to F-22 pilots. This is the same system used in the F-15, F-16 and the F/A-18. However, problems arose when Congress started picking apart the rising costs of the Raptor and the Air Force chose to forego the helmet-mounted cueing system.

This poses a potential problem for F-22 pilots should they get into a dog fight within visual distance. Of course, the F-22’s advanced radars usually give the Raptor such an advantage over other fighter aircraft that this is not as big a deal. However, the fact the F-22 can’t carry the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile only makes this harder for F-22 pilots, Majumdar writes.

Even if the Thales system receives a positive report from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, plenty of road blocks exist for its integration onto the F-22. First and foremost the budget situation.

The Air Force would have to take money from other programs to pay for this helmet-mounted cueing system at a time when the service is paying an inordinate amount on a different fifth generation fighter jet.

A call Friday to the Air Force’s offices in the Pentagon was returned, but the service didn’t have any updates on the testing.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

William_C1 May 23, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I think the F-22 can actually carry the AIM-9X, but without the HMCS they are stuck using it like the AIM-9M. No high off-boresight snap-shots.

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larry May 23, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Yes. The AIM-9X could be carried by the F-22 but has not undergone the extensive testing needed for it to be qualified on the jet.
Giving F-22 pilots the HMCS with the advanced AIM-9X should be a high priority for the USAF. That will fill the last hole in the F-22's armor.

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AK-95 May 24, 2014 at 7:01 am

F-22 is already carrying the Aim-9x missiles (in tests), as part of the decade long +15$ Billion upgrades that begun while back. As part of increment 3.2B upgrades, the F-22 will be able to carry both blocks of the Aim-9x missiles. Sadly, those upgrades wont be over anytime before 2020. Its a long wait, but its worth it.

Read more about the Raptors upgrades: http://manglermuldoon.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-un

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Guest May 25, 2014 at 10:39 pm

According to the article(great info, thx for the link) the issue is not the missile, it's the trapeze that launches it out the side bay. The process can add seconds to the launch that a pilot in a dogfight may not have. The fix won't happen until until the Block II 9X with Lock On After Launch and the finished datalinks which will allow the X to be launched pre-emptively and be guided by the fighter's systems until it can pick up and lock onto a target.

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William May 27, 2014 at 12:11 pm

If the Raptor could carry the 9x, they would. The issue is actually the size of the 9x. they cut costs early on in the program, changed the size/layout of the side bays for the sidewinder, and turns out those changed made the 9x not fit. the 9x only needs a HMCS for the extreme OBS, but the missile itself is by no means limited to 9M WEZs just because it doesn't have the HMCS.

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hibeam May 23, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Google is involved in this type of technology now, so it will start to move forward in a big way and costs will plummet. Driven by big government it would only move at a snails pace and cost a friggin fortune. That's just how big gov rolls.

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Bill June 9, 2014 at 11:20 am

Actually, that's how Big Weapons – those corporations that make up the Military Industrial Complex which President (and General) Eisenhower warned us about – rolls.

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dogfighter May 23, 2014 at 4:52 pm

very true hibeam

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larry May 23, 2014 at 5:17 pm

The consumer stuff Google is doing is totally different than the stuff required for the military. For example I doubt the google glasses have to work while the user is pulling 9g's :)

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hibeam May 25, 2014 at 10:40 am

Good point. Its incredibly difficult to make a piece of silicon survive the same G forces that a meat sack full of blood filled tubes can tolerate.

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Rod May 27, 2014 at 11:39 am

By that logic, you could use a laptop in the pool.

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Chuang Shyue Chou May 23, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Is the information right? The F-22 can't carry the AIM-9X?

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Guest May 25, 2014 at 10:47 pm

The 22 can carry the 9X. It won't be as effective a system until the Block II version providing full software integration into the Raptor's systems which will allow the 9X to be launched untargeted and vectored by the datalinks to targets which it will lock on to.

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Virgil Cuttaway May 24, 2014 at 8:21 am

The Israeli company Elbit leads the world in helmet systems such as this. Why doesnt the US use their technology other than this? After all, the Chinese and Russians are trying to get such technology themselves.

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François May 24, 2014 at 9:00 am

what is the problem with the Thales technologie ?
is it too french for you ?

sorry for my bad english

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Bronco46 May 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm

That's as good a reason as any! But,if we don't buy it; I suppose you'll just sell it to the Russians.

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François May 26, 2014 at 3:39 am

Germans, Italians and Israelians compagnies work with the russian army but the US politicians dont care. Why ?

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Rob May 27, 2014 at 4:19 pm

The Isreali company Elbit used to lead the world on helmet systems. However, they stopped investing and their technology declined relative to the current standard. Elbit, may regain some of their shine if they can ever get their F-35 helmet to work and not cost more than $500K per copy. One Marine stated, “We used to have helmets to protect the pilot, now with the F-35 helmet, the pilot needs to protect the helmet!”

The US made Scorpion HMCS is probably the finest monocular HMD in the world today. It features a full color display that is clearly visible in full daylight with no dark visor. Its tracker cannot be beat for accuracy and latency and the helmet is well balanced and light. The F-22 chose the right helmet. The Elbit JHMCS was originally chosen for the F-22 during the F-22 development and was rejected for reasons that I do not know.

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blight_ May 27, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Scorpion is newer I suppose.

JHMCS came out in the early 2000's and integrated into Super Hornet and JSF. Scorpion went to A-10s, some F-16's and the Army CMHD program. So now DoD has two different helmet mounted displays…and the Air Force has two in its supply chain.

Perhaps upgrading to CMHD from JHMCS may be called for? But not in this budget environment.

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Guy May 29, 2014 at 9:07 am

Because the Israeli's are spying on the US more than any other country. Don't trust the Israeli's, never have. They are as bad for us as cyanide.

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Bernard May 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Just cancel the F35 and use the rest to fix the F22.

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Bronco46 May 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Only if more F-22's are built.

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Tim UK May 24, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Interesting how the USAF and USN are all adopting IRST Typhoon Like sensors and the above helmets . Maybe the stealth factor ain't all its meant to be ?

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Juramentado May 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm

IRST use on a Stealth system is not correlated. IRST does represent an asymmetric answer to stealth, but the use of the system on the F-22 is more intended to enable high-offset engagements – so you don’t have to point the nose of the jet at the opponent in order to get a shot off. Now, if you could use stealth to get *closer* to your target before detection (off-boresight approach would benefit the sneaking greatly) and *without* having to use a radar for fire-control, guess what? As far as the other guy is concerned, the shot came from nowhere, and that might be the last thing he reports to C3I.

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Tim UK May 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Enlighten me as to what the Typhoon would see on his Pirate when the F22 launches a missile. Surely that would be a huge give away when the missile motor kicks in ?

The point I was making is that the USAF and USN are not banking on stealth being the game changer they once believed it to be. For sure an advantage but its being eroded and to base an entire philosophy around it seems remarkably shot sighted.

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Charles James Haas June 2, 2014 at 6:12 am

Not really if the shot is taken from behind a cloud or if the shot is taken from the side of the Typhoon. The F-22 can acquire a target with the IRST and lock it into the fire control. Once ready to launch, the AIM-9X can be launched in a lock on after launch mode, from behind a cloud. Popping back into the open, the AIM-9X can receive additional data link info from the F-22 guiding it to the target and locking onto the aircraft. While some spurious datalink noise might be detected, it is not likely to give the pilot enough time to react, especially if the missile is attacking from a lofted profile with the entire airframe of the enemy aircraft, including engine exhaust guiding the missile to the target.

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Steve B. May 24, 2014 at 6:14 pm

My first thought was that the F22 doesn't really want to get close enough to want to need such a system. Then, on 2nd thought, I realized that if you CAN get close enough without detection, better to use a close-in weapon which reduces the reaction time.

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blight_ May 24, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Interesting, it'll be similar to a system used on army helicopters?
http://www.army-technology.com/news/newsus-army-c

Though you'd think if the Air Force was using JHMCS you'd want to stick to one type of helmet mounted cueing system…groan! Even adding another line item to the inventory will probably eat the per unit savings.

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BlackOwl18E May 25, 2014 at 4:38 am

You mean to tell me that they are retrofitting something already mounted on the F/A-18E/F to the F-22 to make it more effective? I guess stealth doesn't work for everything.

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SirSapo May 27, 2014 at 12:03 pm

So the Raptor finally gets some equipment that it was always slated to receive and suddenly stealth is dead again? Don't make such a big deal about the SHornet having JHMCS, so does the F-16, F-15C, F-15E, Legacy Hornets… the list goes on and on…

HMCS have a lot more benefits than just cueing off-boresight missiles.

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BlackOwl18E May 27, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Ha! Hardly. You missed my point entirely. The Raptor was not always slated to receive the JHMCS because the USAF thought its level of stealth would always provide the first shot. Turns out that getting the first shot is not the only thing that matters. The Raptor is getting the JHMCS because it got its butt kicked by the Eurofighter and Rafale a few times. The details haven't been released in full, but what we do know is that the IRST sensor on the Rafale was good enough to find the F-22 and track it during mock combat exercises and that the Raptor lost a few mock dogfights with both the Eurofighter and the Rafale, mostly because it didn't have a helmet mounted cuing system. This is the USAF back tracking and fixing their mistake.

Think about this though: the Raptor is supposed to be better than the F-35 in air-to-air combat. If the Raptor could be defeated by the Eurofighter and Rafale then the F-35 could be defeated with less difficulty. Not only that but the F-35 doesn't even hold the AIM-9X in a stealthy configuration. You need to mount it externally! The F-35 has nothing necessary for being even moderately effective in close range air-to-air combat without sacrificing stealth.

By the way, you wouldn't happen to know who deleted all of our old arguments would you? Well, they deleted my side at least…

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SirSapo May 28, 2014 at 12:53 am

I'm not too sure how upgrading the airplane so it can max perform its new weapons (AIM-9X Blk II) counts as backtracking. There are plenty of reasons why the Raptor didn't have a helmet mounted display until now, but they are mainly economical and technical rather than "that stubborn old Air Force just won't listen…" Like I said before, HMCS (combined with a datalink) gives you a lot more capability than just cueing a HOBS missile, which is why pretty much everyone flies with one now.

Also, parroting the Raptor losing a few "mock dogfights" argument shows a lack of understanding about what a BFM setup really is, and what the point of OBFM and DBFM exercises are. Like it or not (and I'm not sure why you seem to hate on your own country's fighters so much), the Raptor is the best air to air fighter in the world, and it just got even more lethal.

And I'm not sure about the old posts, I haven't kept up with them.

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BlackOwl18E May 29, 2014 at 1:02 am

It most definitely IS backtracking. They are taking technology that has existed and been in use for several years now (a technology that they knew about and deliberately neglected) and are now picking it up and not neglecting it. The only reason the Raptor didn't have a helmet mounted display was because they thought it wouldn't need it. THAT IS NO EXCUSE. They screwed up and they found out the hard way!

I don't hate my country's fighters, I hate how some of them are built. The USAF was overly confident in stealth and they had to get harshly embarrassed to learn the lesson that it isn't everything and doesn't always guarantee victory. I'm glad that the Raptor got its butt kicked in those mock dogfights. It woke up the USAF. It's true that the Raptor is the best air-to-air fighter in the world, but apparently it's not the best by much and being the best fighter in the world doesn't count worth jack if they are so expensive that you can't make them in enough numbers to matter. That's one thing the USAF didn't learn with the F-22 and failing to learn that lesson has carried over completely into the F-35. The USAF bet the farm on stealth and they are finding out the hard way that it was not the right bet.

CR May 29, 2014 at 2:27 pm

BlackOwl,
If the possible addition of the Scorpion HMCS is because of the deficiency of stealth, and the USAF didn’t want it because the Raptor would always have the first shot, then explain why thrust vectoring, 20mm cannon, and those side bays for 9M/9X missiles were ever included in the requirements! All those items are intended for use in a close up fight. If they really bet the farm on stealth as you claim, why include those requirements?

Charles James Haas June 2, 2014 at 6:36 am

I am sure that the F-22 wasn't playing full stealth mode, and the Rafales and Typhoons were given a more permissive engagement environment, We did this when our F-15s went over to fight the Indian Su-30MKKs. If the F-22 was permitted to operate at its full advantage then the exercises wouldn't be of much value. To stress the training, the F-22s are typically placed in less than ideal conditions, such as 4-6 against one, or with the F-22 in a defensive position to begin with.

The AIM-9X Block II and Block III will have lock on after launch capabilities, so it does not have to be launched externally. The AIM-9X mounted on the wing tip of the F-35 is interesting, but a couple things need to be considered. First, you assume the missiles we intend to use in combat have not been rendered staelthy. Second, even with out stealth, the missile has very little radar return anyway while mounted anyway. It is not equivalent to a 2,000 lb bomb hanging from a pylon.

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jeff check May 26, 2014 at 4:20 am

dont forget the f22 got flogged badly against the Typhoons in a knife fight simulation a couple years ago – i believe it was a 50/50 score. The 22 needs every advantage it can get with its huge size and lack of winglets.

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bobbymike May 27, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Do you mean lack of canards? And no they don't make a difference other than to make the Typhoon a larger radar profile.

Anytime you put two highly agile fighters in close proximity (purposefully take away the F-22's advantage) losses for both aircraft are high.

When the F-22 is allowed to fight as it was intended you get a situation where the ground controller just radios you and says 'you're dead' NOT EVEN knowing the F-22 was out there.

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Darryl May 26, 2014 at 8:48 pm

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Brian B. Mulholland May 26, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Tim UK has a point. Chinese and Russian advances in stealth and AESA technology are coming faster then we'd hoped. That said, the short answer to his question is that a Typhoon pilot who spots a hostile F-22 missile launch on a Pirate (or other externally carried sensor) is most likely to do so in a longer-range encounter where the F-22 sees the target first (externally podded sensors enhance radar signatures) and takes that first shot. And possibly the second, too, for enhanced ill probability. I'd take those odds, thank you. Jeff check, I don't doubt that the F-22's advantages are gone in a knife fight, so anything that enhances the F-22's knife fight advantages are worth having. In dry desert air where IR transmission is good, it might well be that a Pirate sensor might negate the AESA advantage.

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Brian B. Mulholland May 26, 2014 at 11:27 pm

And while we're on that subject, I'd like to see the US adopt both Meteor and ASRAAM. I found it depressing to read that a Lockheed test pilot climbed out of an F-22 recently and expressed a yearning for a longer-ranged missile than the AIM-120D. ASRAAM is available now, as opposed to the proposed Block III AIM-9X, and so is Meteor. Pity they're disqualified from American use by NIH limitations.

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blight_ May 27, 2014 at 10:32 am

…NIH? National Institutes of Health? Whaaaa?

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Brian B. Mulholland May 27, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Not Invented Here. An old expression; I may be dating myself.

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blight_ May 27, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Expression's still in general use, I've just not seen it acronymized.

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Robert Crawford May 27, 2014 at 5:19 pm

About time…

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grayeagle57 May 29, 2014 at 8:22 am

The high cost of the F-22 is the man hours needed to maintain the stealth coating. One nick from a bird strike or a dropped wrench and back to the paint shop. On another note, I would hate to wear all of that hardware in a high G environment. If this is the best we can do we need to start over, and sue Lockheed for the cost overruns on the F-35. Kelly Johnson is spinning in his grave.

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www.cellsea.com May 30, 2014 at 9:33 pm

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Guest June 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm

You'd think we would learn from past experiences, like the F-4 Phantom, they thought then it would never be in close combat and so it was designed without a gun.

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Tyler June 7, 2014 at 11:16 pm

The HMCS is just not a critical aspect of the weapon system that is the F-22. If it is true that the 22 can't carry the AIM-9X, perhaps it is a physical limitation of the internal bays, but its not because it doesn't have HMCS. My dad developed the 9X, and demonstrated amazing capability without HMCS or cross-sensor intelligence. Those technologies are not needed for the weapon to be devastating. Sure they increase capability quite a bit. But not having it does not relegate the 22 to the dust pile. Nothing could be further from the truth. AESA combined with stealth, top-shelf maneuverability, and superior training: nothing comes close to the 22. No, not the decades-old-when-it-was-new 4th generation fighter, Typhoon, nor anything our enemies have. But even with that, we learned our lesson from the F-4: the 22 has an amazing gun, and close-in capability as well. HMCS just takes that capability a leap forward.

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